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The Damage Caused by Religious Legalism

by | Mon, May 29 2023

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Dee from Tasmania shared her story of the damage she suffered as a child being brought up in what she called a legalistic religious cult that groomed her for abuse later in life.

“As a child, my church and my family operated like a cult. In a private ‘Christian’ school, I was hit with a 1-meter ruler for mistakes (not sins) such as spelling a word incorrectly. The rules and the legalism were impossible to navigate. I learnt to be a perfectionist at a young age.

School and ‘church’ were all about not breaking the nonsensical rules, being perfect in every little detail, never making a mistake and certainly NEVER about grace or just being human. I had little glimpses of something else, something of Christ, but the message was so blurred and distorted.

At home, my father was often tyrannical, and yet he professed to be a Christian. He hurt me in many ways, many times over. This crushed and confused my little heart.

So, at school and at home, I learnt all about compliance and very little about Jesus Christ. This groomed me for future abuse. It was misrepresentation at a shocking level.

In ordinary logic, I should not be a Christian. All the pain and the confusion of people professing Christianity but being abusive really left me a lost and desperate young woman. I needed to rebel against the power and control. However, that task left me without any structure or internal compass. I had NO idea how to live in the world.

I left home at 15 and went from the frying pan to the fire.

Due to being abused, I did not know my human dignity or my God-given value, so I was easy prey to predatorial men.

I found myself pregnant at 17, a mother at 18 and then experienced the trauma of more violence and the trauma of abortion. I was on a trajectory but trying to make life work without God.

I failed.

Then one day, at a Christmas concert in December 2000, it was like a light went off in my soul. I realised that the Christmas story was true. This was a turning point for me. Jesus broke through in his perfect timing.

From this turning point, I have experienced Jesus Christ restoring my soul and showing me who HE REALLY IS. That HE is a gentle father—gentle with wounded souls like mine. In knowing more about who HE is, I understand myself more AND my dignity as HIS creation. More than that, as a masterpiece worthy of deep respect.

This is THE LIFE-CHANGING REVOLUTION. I am created, I am loved, I am HIS.

I have been learning more and more for the past 23 years how to live as a very loved human being. It was a messy process at times, and I made many mistakes, slipping back into old ways and looking for the wrong kind of love that never fills you.

One day, after the end of another relationship, I found myself just crushed and totally shattered. God said to me, just keep looking up. It was in that season that I really knew how very held we are when we suffer. God never gives up! He keeps on loving and loving and loving.

So today, 23 years from that turning point in December 2000, and after many misadventures, I know who my redeemer is. I am very in love with HIM and ridiculously WHOLE!!

Just so free and so very whole—it’s hardly believable. This is the power of Christ.

It does not make sense in human terms, as in human terms, I would have ended my life years ago or been drunk every day. Dead, whichever way you dice it.

But here I am—free, full of faith and happy in HIM. Praise Jesus!

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